I'm interested in eating healthier? Well, there sure are a lot of different pieces of advice out there. Unfortunately most of it is served up by people trying to sell you something.
And have you ever noticed all the contradicting opinions? It’s really hard to know what to believe!
Well, I’m not a health professional, but I used to market processed foods for a living. And if there’s one thing I know for sure it’s that processed foods are bad news.
To hit that point home I’ve been sharing my real food journey over the past several weeks—first sharing why I quit processed foods and then details on how I made my break. To round out this story I thought I’d assemble my Top Ten Tips on How to Quit Processed Foods. Hopefully you’ll find them helpful no matter where you are on your goal to eat healthier!
- One size does not fit all when it comes to quitting processed foods. Instead, find an approach that makes sense for you. Let’s face it, making a big change like what you eat is going to be difficult. Therefore finding an approach that fits for you, your family, and your relationship with processed foods is crucial. While small, simple steps has worked for me, I can also appreciate the challenges of food addictions. So whether it’s slow and steady, cold turkey, or some blended approach, I truly believe there’s no one right way to quit processed foods!
- Listen to your body. Whenever you’re making changes to what you’re eating, listen to yourbody. While it’s not abnormal to experience some “withdrawal” pains from processed food ingredients like sugar, salt, and fat, these feelings last days not weeks. So if you’re not feeling well, think about what you’ve eaten, keeping a log if necessary, and try to figure out a pattern. Furthermore, you can’t just assume what works for one person will work for you. Our bodies are amazing machines, and each one is built just a little bit differently!
- Make a mini pledge. Selectively cutting out a type of food or ingredient for 7-14 days can be a great way to become more aware of what you eat as well as figuring out what foods may be hijacking your health. Some mini pledges you may want to consider include eliminating sugars, artificial ingredients (sweeteners, colors, or flavors), gluten, fast food, processed foods, meat, soda, etc. So try a mini pledge and listen to how your body feels!
- Discover your food values. Knowing what you believe and value can be an incredible tool to help motivate change and inspire you to act. Here are several questions to get you thinking more about your food values. How important are simple ingredients to me? Is sustainability and the environment a concern? How do I feel about eating meat and animal products? Do I care about the humane treatment of animals? Is eating local and supporting small farms important to me?
- Don’t judge yourself or others. We’re each on our own journey and judging yourself or others only isolates us. Remember, we all come to make decisions based on different values, and that’s especially true when it comes to food.
- If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You can find a wide range of “fixes” out there—from Big Food companies hawking their leanwashed processed foods to modern-day snake-oil salesmen selling their latest magical food or detox plan. The bottom line is if your plan doesn’t include some combination of cooking more often, eating out less, eliminating additives, and eating more vegetables and fruits, then you may want to reconsider your approach.
- Extremes are rarely healthy. “Always and never are rarely true” is a piece of advice I learned from a therapist, and I think it applies to food too. While I’m not a fan of the word “balance” since it leaves so much up for interpretation, if you go back to tip #2 (listen to your body) you can rarely go wrong.
- Don’t be fooled by superfoods or exotic ingredients. Hardly a day goes by without someone promising the crazy benefits of some super food or new ingredient. While some of these foods and ingredients may offer real benefits, don’t get lost in this insanity. Honestly, you don’t have to travel far to get real food—find a local farmer, go to a farmer’s market, or visit a co-op. Even regular grocery stores are doing a better job of stocking real, local foods.
- Recruit a friend to keep you on track. Navigating this crazy food world can be maddening. Hopefully our website is helping you sort through some of this insanity, but there’s nothing like having a real life buddy to help you out. And the power of personal connection is truly amazing when it comes to creating a happier and healthier lifestyle!
- Don’t forget to have fun! While culturally we’ve forgotten that food is first and foremost about nourishment, mankind has a long history of connecting and celebrating with food. There’s no reason why we have to abandon having fun when it comes to food. Rather, we just need to realize that every day isn’t a celebration AND that enjoying real food can be fun too!
So please … take a few moments and share a little about your journey and some tips you’ve learned along the way!